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Main repository of the RCLAda project. Currently available for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and ROS2 Dashing/Foxy.

This repository is actually a ROS2 workspace. It can be checked out directly and compiled as a regular ROS2 overlay. Package repositories are brought in as submodules and are individually available at

Alternatively, you could check out the individual repositories that you need. (E.g., just rclada_common, rosidl_generator_ada, and rclada.)


This project relies on the system's default Ada compiler, which means installing the gnat and gprbuild packages.

  1. Follow the official instructions to install ROS2 (either binary or from source should work).
    1. If installing from sources, you can use the contents of ros2deps.txt to build only the necessary dependencies: colcon build --packages-up-to $(cat ros2deps.txt). This will cut your build time in half.
  2. Clone the ada4ros2 repository with submodules: $ git clone --recurse-submodules.
  3. Enter the repository root folder and issue $ colcon build
    1. You may need to install package python3-colcon-common-extensions to make colcon available.
  4. Source the ./install/setup.bash script.
  5. Try to run some example nodes: $ ros2 run rclada_examples listener. Tab completion should work too.

Alternatively, you can import with vcs the ada4ros2.repos file in this repository to prepare the Ada workspace overlay.

  1. Download the ada4ros2.repos file to the folder you're using as workspace.
  2. Run vcs import src < ada4ros2.repos
  3. Continue as in the above list from colcon build.

Testing your installation

Assuming, you have successfully built the ada4ros2 overlay and sourced it, you can run its examples and self-test node to ensure it works as expected:

  • ros2 run rclada <test>, with <test> one of:

    • rclada_selftest: tests all message/service-related features.
    • rclada_test_multicore <n>: tests the pooled executor, with n threads.
    • rclada_test_allocators <n>: tests the pooled executor, with n threads, using a custom allocator that reports memory use leaks/statistics.
  • ros2 run rclada_examples <executable>, which executable one of:

    • talker, listener, add_two_ints_server, add_two_ints_client[_async]: examples compatible with the ones in the demo_nodes_cpp/demo_nodes_py packages.
    • listener_metadata: as listener, but additionally dumps thorough metadata information about received messages
    • graph_info: shows topological information about the topics/subscriptions/services.
    • pong_class, pong_generic: nodes that send messages to each other illustrating the two ways of node extension in Ada, either using generics or using classwide inheritance.

Developing Ada nodes

Nodes can be entirely written in Ada, without the need for C/C++ files or main program. Please check the examples in the rclada_examples repository for some ideas.

Ada code is compiled using gprbuild. Once you have successfully run colcon build, you can use the aggregate project file ada4ros2.gpr, in the root folder, as a starting point for development. This file includes all RCLAda libraries and a sample user project. The file is designed to be open with the GPS (or GNAT Studio) editor from GNAT, and to develop Ada code without going through the colcon build process every time. Compilation can be launched directly from GPS and should succeed.

Alternatively, you can force the exporting of all necessary project file locations, so you can open yours with GNAT Studio without requiring the ada4ros2.gpr or any other aggregate project, or manual environment exporting. To do so, export RCLADA_EXPORT=TRUE in your environment before running colcon build. After sourcing the install script, the GPR_PROJECT_PATH environment variable will be filled with all project paths from the build. Then, its a matter of running /path/to/gnatstudio -P <your project.gpr>.

While developing in GPS is a convenience, the final package build is to be done through colcon, as with any other ROS2 package, so your nodes and interfaces are locatable by ros2 tools. This project provides some CMake functions to greatly simplify the inclusion of a GPR project in the ROS2 build process:

  • Your ROS2 package should use the ament_cmake build method of colcon.
    • This is the default when using ros2 pkg create.
  • You must not call the ament_package() macro, rclada does it for you.
    • Use instead ada_begin_package() and ada_end_package().
  • See the next section and the package rclada_examples to see the available CMake functions.

CMake functions

To simplify the integration of GPR-based Ada projects, the rclada_common package provides the following CMake functions (all of them starting with ada_*. The two first ones are the most important, and the rest could be useful for special Ada projects (like bindings):

  • ada_begin_package() must be called first, right after find_package(rclada_common) to initialize the package Ada environment.

  • ada_end_package() must be called last to ensure Ada environment settings are propagated. This also calls ament_package() for you.

  • ada_add_executables(TARGET SRCDIR DSTDIR EXECUTABLES) declares the Ada targets built by the package:

    • TARGET is a name on which other targets may depend.
    • SRCDIR is a relative path in the package containing an Ada/GPR project.
    • OUTDIR is the relative path from the .gpr project file in which the final executables are built.
    • EXECUTABLES is the remainder of arguments, which are the executables built by the Ada project.
  • ada_add_library(TARGET SRCDIR GPRFILE) declares an Ada library that is made available to other packages:

    • TARGET (same as above)
    • SRCDIR (same as above)
    • GPRFILE: GPR library project which will be built and installed in the Ada environment.
  • ada_import_interfaces(PKG_NAME[, PKG_NAME...])

    • Causes the generation of the Ada specification files corresponding to messages and services in PKG_NAME (and all recursive dependencies). These files are made available through a GPR project of name ros2_PKG_interfaces.gpr (where PKG is the one invoking ada_import_interfaces).
  • ada_import_c_headers(LIBNAME INCLUDE_DIR) is a helper to make C headers available if they are not part of a library.

    • LIBNAME is a name that will be used as clib_LIBNAME.gpr
    • INCLUDE_DIR is the path to make available (like in a -I flag)
  • ada_import_c_libraries(ARGN) is a helper to use C libraries built by other packages.

    • ARGN is a list of library files (*.so, *.a) that will be made available to the Ada environment as clib_* GPR project files. (E.g., for libgsl.a you obtain clib_gsl.gpr.)
  • ada_generate_binding(TARGET SRCDIR GPRFILE INCLUDE) generates a supporting low-level Ada binding for the given C header files, with g++ -fdump-ada-spec, that is integrated in a high-level Ada project. The project must provide a gen folder in which autogenerated sources will be placed before compilation. Check the rclada's RCL project for an example.

    • TARGET (as above)
    • SRCDIR (as above), contains the high-level Ada project.
    • GPRFILE (as above)
    • INCLUDE: semicolon-separated list of C headers whose Ada specs will be autogenerated.

Using the rclada ROS2 Client Library binding.

The library is provided by the rclada ROS2 package. However, your package must depend on all of:

  • rclada_common, which provides the CMake functions.
  • rosidl_generator_ada, which provides the interfaces to ROS2 messages.
  • rclada, which provides the Ada binding.

Check the rclada_examples package for a starting point for your package, since it is written purely as a regular client.

The GPR projects that you can use in your nodes, that you have to with on your own project files, are:

  • rcl.gpr, which makes available the Ada RCL equivalent client library.
  • rosidl.gpr, which provides dynamic support for messages and typesupports.
  • ros2_*_interfaces.gpr, which are necessary to use messages/services from other packages.

There are two hierarchies of Ada packages in the Ada RCL binding:

  1. RCL.* packages form the high-level, manually curated binding.
  2. RCLx.* is the automatically generated binding (with g++ -fdump-ada-spec). It is not intended for direct use but it should be complete if something is still missing in the high-level binding. It also ensures that changes in the C RCL are detected and properly integrated in the Ada high-level binding.

Additionally, there is both a high-level and low-level binding to rosidl packages:

  1. ROSIDL.* packages are used by RCL.*, and by users to deal with messages/services.
    1. ROSIDL.Static.<importing pkg>.<imported pkg>.Messages|Services.<interface name> contain the Ada types corresponding to messages used by topics and services.
    2. ROSIDL.Dynamic contains Ada types to use messages through runtime introspection (older deprecated method).
  2. The low level bindings to rosidl_generator_c, rosidl_typesupport_c, and rosidl_typesupport_introspection_c are too autogenerated, and should not be needed unless you use something from RCLx.*, which should be a last resort (there is no foreseeable need at present).

All examples provided use exclusively the RCL.* and ROSIDL.* hierarchies.

Implementation status

RCL client library:

These statuses refer to the high-level binding; the low-level one is always generated.

  • Main features:
    • 🟩 RCL.Nodes: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Publishers: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Subscriptions: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Clients: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Services: Complete
    • 🟨 RCL.Actions: Partial (thin binding only ATM)
    • 🟥 RCL.Parameters: Pending
  • Support:
    • 🟩 RCL.Allocators: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Calendar: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Executors: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Graph: Complete
    • 🟨 RCL.Options: Partial (only QoS predefined profiles)
    • 🟩 RCL.Timers: Complete
    • 🟩 RCL.Wait: Complete
  • Sibling projects:
    • 🟨 RCL.TF2: Partial (query transform existence, transform single points)

ROSIDL message support for Ada

  • Dynamic access (through introspection):
    • 🟩 Typesupport: Complete
    • 🟩 Simple types: Complete
    • 🟩 Nested types: Complete
    • 🟩 Array types: Complete
    • 🟩 Matrix types: Complete
  • Static access (through generated types):
    • 🟩 Typesupport: Complete
    • 🟩 Simple types: Complete
    • 🟩 Nested types: Complete
    • 🟩 Array types: Complete
    • 🟩 Matrix types: Deprecated by ROS2 in favor of semantically-appropriate custom messages, although available through their statically generated types.

ColCon integration

  • ament_cmake build type:
    • 🟩 Stand-alone executables: Complete
    • 🟩 Export Ada libraries to Ada clients: Complete
    • 🟨 Export Ada libraries to C-compatible clients: Manual via plain CMake

API documentation

GNATdoc-generated documents can be found at for RCL, RCL.TF2, ROSIDL and their dependencies.


Some developer notes I have taken:

  • Fixed size arrays are generated in place in the message struct (metadata size=fixed size)
  • Variable size arrays are generated as a member message with pointer and size (metadata size=0)

Since rclada initially attempted to follow the ros2_java project structure, I did these dependency graphs on the java_examples package. This one is simplified removing some common and indirect dependencies, you can see the full one here. These might help in understanding some of the interrelations amongst ROS2 packages.

Simplified dependencies


This project is done with the support of the following entities:


Ada binding and tools for ROS2 - workspace overlay and documentation







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